TIME North Korea

North Korea Denies Selling Missiles to Hamas

SKOREA-NKOREA-MILITARY-MISSILE
Visitors walk past replicas of a North Korean Scud-B missile, right, and South Korean Hawk surface-to-air missiles, left, at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul on March 3, 2014 Jung Yeon-Je—AFP/Getty Images

Earlier report by British newspaper claimed a secret weapons deal was in the works

On Dec. 12, 2009, a Georgia-registered cargo plane made an emergency landing in Bangkok. The manifest said it was carrying drilling equipment, but working on a tip from U.S. intelligence, Thai authorities decided to check. Inside the hold, they found some 35 tons of North Korean–made weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, rocket launchers and grenades. Officials said the plane was likely bound for Iran, and its cargo to Hamas and Hizballah.

North Korea’s international reputation has become so tied to Kim Jong Un memes that it is easy to lose sight of the country’s real-life role in the global arms trade. Starved for foreign currency, North Korea has a long history of manufacturing and selling weapons, including, according to U.S. officials, deals with Syria and Iran. Earlier this month, a U.S. judge found North Korea and Iran liable for missile attacks by Hizballah in 2006. On July 28, the U.N. imposed sanctions on the North Korean company that operated a ship carrying undeclared Cuban weapons that was seized by Panama authorities last year.

Now a British newspaper says North Korea is negotiating a secret deal to sell missiles to Hamas. On July 26, the Daily Telegraph’s Con Coughlin published a report claiming that Hamas paid the Hermit Kingdom “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for missiles and communication equipment in a deal brokered by a Lebanon-based security company. The story was based on information from an unnamed Western security official who reportedly told the London-based paper that “Pyongyang already has close ties with a number of militant Islamist groups in the Middle East.”

The report has not been independently confirmed; however, it would, theoretically, make sense for both parties. Thanks to U.N. sanctions, the market for North Korean weapons is shrinking, says Daniel Pinkston, a Northeast Asia expert at the International Crisis Group. “The incentives are there to sell arms to earn hard currency,” he says, and amid the ongoing conflict with Israel, “Hamas has an incentive to buy.” But there are still a lot questions: If the report is true, when, where and how would the deal take place?

For its part, North Korea denied any involvement — and did so, of course, with exactly the kind of verbose bluster that fuels the North Korea meme machine. “This is utterly baseless sophism and sheer fiction let loose by the U.S. to isolate the DPRK internationally,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, according to the state-backed Korean Central News Agency.

The news agency went on to berate Washington for its stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Lurking behind this propaganda is a sinister intention of the U.S. to justify its criminal acts of backing Israel driven into a tight corner by its recent unethical killings in the Gaza Strip.” It is the U.S., it said, not Pyongyang, that is the “kingdom of terrorism and chief culprit of international terrorism.”

TIME North Korea

North Korea Pushes Farmers For More

North Korea Feeding the Nation
A North Korean woman walks on a trail through a rice paddy southeast of Pyongyang, North Korea on June 21, 2014. For more than four decades, farming in the North was characterized by heavy use of mechanization swiftly followed by chronic fuel and equipment shortages and stopgap policies. David Guttenfelder—AP

North Korea needs sustainable agriculture as much as it needs nuclear power to keep enemies at bay, which has led to a push for self-sufficient farming — but for it to succeed the country would have to sanction capitalist-style reforms

Rim Ok Hua looks out over her patch of farm just across the Tumen River from China, where rows of lush, green young potato plants stretch into the distance.

As North Korean farmers go, Rim is exceptionally lucky. The Changpyong Cooperative Farm where she works is mechanized, has 500 pigs to provide fertilizer and uses the best available seeds, originally brought in from Switzerland. In most fields throughout the country, farmers work the fields by hand, or behind bony oxen.

However, this year, even more than most, they are all under intense pressure to feed a hungry nation.

Leader Kim Jong Un has succeeded in establishing his country as a nuclear power, and even sent a satellite into orbit. Now, with prolonged international sanctions and largesse from former communist allies mostly gone, Kim is calling on farmers to win him another battle. In 2012, and again this year, he promised the nation it would never face famine again.

But can isolated and impoverished North Korea ever escape the ghosts of famines past?

For more than four decades, farming in the North was characterized by heavy use of mechanization swiftly followed by chronic fuel and equipment shortages and stopgap policies. That legacy has left its mark not only on the North Korean psyche, but on its countryside.

Hillsides denuded of trees for terraced farming plots produce little but increase the risk of damage from erosion or landslides. Goats, which are everywhere after a mass goat-breeding campaign in 1996, eat their way into hillside shrubs, which makes the landslide problem even worse. Overuse of chemical fertilizers has trashed soil fertility in many areas.

North Korea has struggled to obtain tractor fuel for more than two decades. Housewives, college students and workers brought in from the cities, along with military units, make up for the lack of mechanization at crucial times.

There are many less tangible problems: state-controlled distribution, top-down planning and a quota system that doesn’t fully encourage innovation and individual effort. All these factors make North Korea’s agricultural sector a very fragile ecosystem. Almost as soon as this season’s rice was transplanted, the North’s Korean Central News Agency reported that tens of thousands of hectares of farmland had already been damaged by drought.

Even so, North Korea is by no means an agricultural lost cause.

As the summer growing months approach, the North Korean countryside is bursting with the bright greens of young rice, corn, soybeans and cabbage. On hillier ground lie orchards for apples and pears. Whole villages are devoted to growing mushrooms — another “magic bullet” innovation from the 1990s. It seems every valley and flatland, each nook and cranny, has been turned into a plot for some sort of crop.

In the minds of North Korea’s leaders, agricultural self-sufficiency is as much a key to the nation’s survival as nuclear weapons are to keeping its foes at bay. North Korea needed massive international aid during the devastating famine of the 1990s.

There are some signs of improvement. The combined overall crop production for this year and 2013 is expected to increase by 5 percent, to 5.98 million tons, according to a joint report compiled by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program. The report, released last November, estimated the North would still need to import 340,000 tons of cereals.

About 16 million of North Korea’s 25 million people rely on state-provided rations of cereals, and stunting from chronic malnutrition is estimated to be as high as 40 percent in some areas. But according to U.N. monitors, North Koreans have been getting larger rations of rice, potatoes and corn over the past two years. The production gap in the FAO-WFP report, meanwhile, is the smallest North Korea has seen in about two decades.

North Korean farmers are learning sustainable farming, with more use of manure and better compost, said agricultural consultant Randall Ireson. He recommended rotating and planting a wider variety of crops, particularly soybeans, and using organic fertilizer.

“No magic technology is needed,” he said. “Just good ‘best farming practices.'”

In rural North Korea, some of those changes are well underway.

Nestled in high country near the scenic Mount Paektu, the Taehongdan district became a national priority development area for potatoes around 2002. The Changpyong farm is one of its shining successes.

“We don’t need chemical fertilizer,” boasted farmer Jo Kwang Il, one of the cooperative’s 500 workers. “We have pigs to produce tons of manure a year. They also provide meat, so that benefits our whole community.”

For the whole agricultural sector to succeed, more systemic, and politically risky, changes may also be needed, such as relaxing central government command and bringing state-set prices for crops more in line with what farmers can get for surplus sold in farmers’ markets. Farms and divisions within them could then afford to reinvest their profits in small walk-behind tractors, rice-transplanting machines, fuel or fertilizer. This kind of action, however, could move North Korea closer to sanctioning capitalist-style markets and reforms, which it has long resisted.

In the meantime, as she stands near her potato patch, Rim says it’s been nothing but rain here in the high country.

“The weather hasn’t been so good lately,” she said, squinting into the glare of the overcast, late-morning sky. But then, after a pause: “All of us farmers are working harder than ever. It will be a good harvest this year.”

 

TIME Asia

Seoul: North Korea Fires Artillery Shells Into Ocean

KCNA picture shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a visit to the construction site of a terminal at Pyongyang International Airport
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pays a visit to the construction site of a terminal at Pyongyang International Airport in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on July 11, 2014. KCNA—Reuters

North Korea on Monday fired artillery shells into waters near its sea border with South Korea

Updated: July 14, 2014, 03: 10 a.m. ET

(SEOUL, South Korea) — Another day, another defiant weapons test from North Korea.

A day after launching two ballistic missiles from a base near the border with archrival South Korea, Pyongyang on Monday fired a barrage of artillery shells into waters near its sea border with the South. Officials in Seoul have confirmed nearly 100 missile, rocket and artillery tests by North Korea this year, an output seen as significantly higher than past years.

The regular test-firings of short-range projectiles, analysts say, are the latest signal that the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, is determined to do things differently than his father, dictator Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011.

Analysts see no end to the test-firings in sight.

Kim Jong Un, who pushed tensions to extraordinary levels last year with threats of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington, will likely order his military to keep the launches up, they say, until the United States and South Korea make major concessions such as scaling down their regular joint military drills that Pyongyang insists are an invasion rehearsal. That’s a major contrast to the style of Kim’s father, who sparingly used longer-range missile and nuclear tests more as negotiating cards with the outside world to win concessions.

On Monday, about 100 shells fired from land-based multiple rocket launch systems landed north of the Koreas’ maritime border. Those shells flew about 3 to 50 kilometers (1.9 to 31 miles), and South Korea didn’t return fire because no shells fell in its waters, according to South Korean defense and military officials.

The eastern sea border is clearly marked compared with the Koreas’ disputed western sea boundary, the scene of several bloody maritime skirmishes between the rivals in recent years. The Koreas exchanged artillery fire twice earlier this year near the western sea boundary.

North Korea routinely tests short-range projectiles, but the number of launches this year has been much higher than in previous years, according to South Korean officials and analysts.

The continued launches show North Korea’s leader is pushing to strengthen military capabilities because his country feels threatened by U.S.-South Korean military drills even as it pushes for talks with the allies, said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University.

The launches come as North Korea pressures Seoul to accept a proposed set of measures it says are meant to lower tension.

Kim Jong Un’s push for better ties with Seoul and Washington are seen by outside analysts as an attempt to help lure international aid and investment to revive the country’s moribund economy. South Korean and U.S. officials have largely dismissed the North’s overtures, saying the country must first take steps toward nuclear disarmament. North Korea is believed to have a small arsenal of crude nuclear bombs.

South Korea said earlier Monday that North Korea has agreed to hold talks at a border village on Thursday to discuss the North’s participation in the Asian Games in the South later this year.

The two Koreas have faced each other across the world’s most heavily armed border since their war in the early 1950 ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Regular military drills between Seoul and Washington are a long-running source of tension on the Korean Peninsula, and the allies are set to conduct major annual summertime exercises in August. South Korea and the U.S. say the training is purely defensive.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Again Fires Projectiles Into Sea

South Korea Koreas Tensions
People watch a TV news program showing a file footage of a missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, July 2, 2014. North Korea launched two projectiles in the into the sea off it's East Coast Wednesday morning. Ahn Young-joon—AP

(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea launched two projectiles Wednesday morning into the sea off its east coast, in an apparent continuation of a recent series of missile and artillery test launches, a South Korean defense official said.

The launch was presumed to be of Scud missiles, but the official, who asked for anonymity because of department rules, had no other details.

North Korea has conducted an unusually large number of test-firings of missiles and rockets since earlier this year, including launches before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to South Korea. Analysts say the tests were a protest against Xi becoming Beijing’s first leader to come to the South before the North.

Pyongyang is also angry over regular U.S.-South Korean military drills, and the North’s short-range launches are seen a message to its neighbors and Washington not to interfere in its buildup of nuclear bombs and other defense capabilities.

South Korea has also rejected a set of proposals by North Korea that Pyongyang said were meant reduce tensions, including the cancellation of the war drills between Seoul and Washington. Seoul officials said the North must first demonstrate that it is serious about nuclear disarmament if it truly wants peace.

The two Koreas remain divided along the world’s most heavily fortified border. The Korean Peninsula officially remains in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

TIME North Korea

Japanese Pro-Wrestler Plans Pyongyang Extravaganza

Kanji "Antonio" Inoki, pro wrestling legend turned politician, is surrounded by journalists during a press conference in Tokyo on July 7, 2014.
Kanji "Antonio" Inoki, pro wrestling legend turned politician, is surrounded by journalists during a press conference in Tokyo on July 7, 2014. Kyodo News/AP

About 20 wrestlers and martial artists are expected to attend, although organizers have not announced their names or nationalities

(TOKYO) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have found a new friend for life.

Hot on the heels of former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s basketball antics in Pyongyang on the young leader’s birthday, a Japanese pro wrestling legend turned politician is planning to entertain the North Korean capital with a martial arts extravaganza next month — and hopefully meet some senior leaders while he is there.

Kanji “Antonio” Inoki was to leave for Pyongyang on Wednesday to set the final details for the Aug. 30-31 event, which organizers say will feature pro wrestling, taekwondo, the Japanese martial art aikido and a traditional Korean style of wrestling.

Like Rodman, who said he and Kim were friends for life even though his trip to Pyongyang in January was a public-relations disaster, Inoki is both a savvy showman and charismatically eccentric. For a politician — he’s serving his third term in Japan’s parliament — he is also famously fond of being politically incorrect.

During the Gulf War, Inoki organized a pro wrestling show in Iraq and he has visited North Korea nearly 30 times. His proactive position on Pyongyang ties has gotten him in trouble before. He was suspended in parliament last year for 30 days after making an unauthorized trip to the North.

Government officials are not expected to protest his current plans, however.

Though he is a household name in Japan, the square-jawed, 6-foot-3 Inoki is probably best remembered elsewhere for fighting Muhammad Ali in Tokyo in 1976, though he spent much of the bout on his back kicking at Ali’s legs. Inoki was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010. He retired from the ring in 1998.

If all goes as planned, this will be the second time Inoki has helped arrange a pro-wrestling show in Pyongyang — and the first was a huge success.

In 1995, Inoki fought American Ric Flair in what was called the “Collision in Korea.” That two-day event, held in Pyongyang’s huge May Day Stadium, drew a reported 380,000 spectators and was the biggest pay-per-view in pro-wrestling history. Ali was among the guest attendees.

Tokyo has cut off virtually all official ties with Pyongyang since 2006 over its nuclear weapons program and other issues, but Inoki runs a non-profit that opened an office in Pyongyang last year to promote international sports exchange. His connection to North Korea comes from his mentor, Rikidozan, a postwar wrestling legend in Japan who was born in the North.

Last week, Tokyo announced it was lifting some unilateral sanctions after the North agreed to revive a probe into the fates of at least a dozen Japanese who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 80s. Though Tokyo will continue to enforce UN sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear program, the breakthrough on the abductions issue is expected to allow more contact between the countries.

About 20 wrestlers and martial artists are expected to attend, although organizers have not announced their names or nationalities. Organizers say the International Pro-Wrestling Festival in Pyongyang will likely be broadcast over the Internet. It is to be held at Pyongyang’s Chung Ju-yung Stadium, which has a capacity of 15,000.

Inoki, who is 71, told reporters on Monday that while in Pyongyang for the event he hopes to meet with senior North Korean officials. It remains to be seen whether Kim himself will be among the spectators.

The event would be the biggest sports show with a marquee foreigner since Rodman and a team of other former NBA players and streetballers took to the basketball court in Pyongyang’s Indoor Stadium in January.

Rodman dedicated the game to his “best friend” Kim, who along with his wife and other senior officials and their wives watched from a special seating area. The capacity crowd of about 14,000 clapped loudly as Rodman sang a verse from the birthday song and then bowed deeply to Kim, seated above him in the stands.

Rodman called the event “historic,” but he was widely criticized by members of the U.S. Congress, the NBA and human rights groups who said he had become a public relations tool for North Korea’s government. Rodman apologized publicly for his conduct while in North Korea, and entered rehab soon after his return to the United States.

 

TIME North Korea

20 Years After His Death, Kim Il Sung Still Casts a Powerful Spell Over North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang at midnight on July 8, 2014.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang at midnight on July 8, 2014. KCNA/Reuters

His look and persona are consciously imitated by his grandson, Kim Jong Un

When Kim Il Sung’s heart stopped beating exactly 20 years ago — on July 8, 1994 — the propagandists didn’t let the mere fact of his death get in the way. The 82-year-old founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was revered like a god in life — and after it.

Two decades later, mythmaking is as important as ever for Kim’s grandson, dictator Kim Jong Un, who has just led the official memorial to the Great Leader.

North Korean propaganda casts the Kims as protectors of a country under siege. School children learn that Kim Il Sung was an exceptional warrior who, while camping at the base of Mount Paektu with his comrades, defeated a force of Japanese colonialists. He later repelled the imperialist Americans in the 1950–53 Korean War.

According to official history, his heir, Kim Jong Il, was born at the base of the same scared mountain, and the birth heralded by a rainbow. According to North Korean hagiography, Kim Jong Il grew up to become a master tactician, writer and filmmaker. Legend has it he shot 11 holes-in-one in his first ever round of golf.

Kim Il Sung’s North Korea was never the socialist paradise portrayed on posters, but through the 1960s it was at least a functioning, if brutal and repressive, state. The collapse of the Soviet Union and disastrous agricultural policies changed that. In the 1990s, while successor Kim Jong Il practiced his soon-to-be-legendary swing, North Koreans starved.

Understandably, young Kim Jong Un prefers to bask in his grandfather’s, rather than his father’s, glow. South Korean analysts believe the young leader consciously emulates his grandfather’s look and public persona. Whereas his father avoided the public, Kim Jong Un, like his grandfather, is often photographed among, even touching, his subjects.

Channeling his granddad reinforces Kim Jong Un’s link to a not-so-distant revolutionary past. Since coming to power in 2011, he has promised to push ahead with the twin development of his country’s economy and nuclear-weapons program. He has made good on the second part, conducting the country’s third nuke test, while keeping up the violent rhetoric and threatening, among other things, to rain fire on the U.S. “Break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like, ” he once urged his soldiers, according to state media reports.

An actual conflict would almost certainly cost him his kingdom. But young Kim knows that for North Korea to survive he must convince his people that the enemy is at the gate — and that he, alone, can stop them. Grandad would have approved.

TIME East Asia

North Korea to Send Cheerleaders, Athletes to South for Asian Games

Pyongyang's cheerleaders have previously been lauded by Seoul for their meticulous choreography and peaceful cheers, and Kim Jong Un even made one of the delegation his wife

+ READ ARTICLE

North Korea announced on Monday that it will send a cheerleading squad and 150 athletes to the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, on Sept. 19, in a display of goodwill incongruous with several weeks of intermittent missile and rocket launches amid bellicose rhetoric.

The longtime adversaries remain at odds over a civil war from 1950 to ’53 that was never properly resolved. North Korea last week fired several short-range rockets into the sea ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the South Korean capital Seoul during which Pyongyang’s nuclear program was discussed.

The North’s cheerleaders, who have been lauded by the South in previous visits for their meticulous choreography and peaceful cheers, will ostensibly be dispatched to build tolerance between the neighbors, reports Reuters. “It is necessary to put an end to all kinds of calumnies and vituperation that foster misunderstanding and distrust among the fellow countrymen,” read a government statement, according to the North’s state KCNA news agency.

These overtures come just as young North Korean despot Kim Jong Un oversaw a mock military assault on a South Korean island on Saturday. Last week, North Korea also demanded that Seoul end its annual joint military drills with the U.S., although this was met with flat refusal.

Kim Eui-do, a spokesman for the South Korean government, said organizers would discuss the North’s proposal of sending a cheerleading squad and athletes to the event, reports the South China Morning Post. North Korea also sent cheerleaders to the Asian Athletic Games in Incheon in 2005. Leader Kim has since married one of the cheerleaders from the squad, Ri Sol Ju.

[Reuters]

TIME East Asia

The Chinese President’s Visit to Seoul Says Much About Shifting Alliances

SKOREA-CHINA-DIPLOMACY
China's President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are welcomed upon arrival at Seoul Air Base on July 3, 2014 Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images

The two-day trip is the first time a Chinese leader has chosen to visit South Korea before calling on the North

South Korea is a good neighbor. North Korea, not so much. That’s the message China sent this week as President Xi Jinping stopped by Seoul for a two-day visit. It is the first time a Chinese leader chose to visit South Korea before meeting with the Kim clan first — a deliberate slight to North Korea and a sign of shifting alliances across Asia’s northeast.

South Korea and China are not natural allies. China backed the North in the 1950–53 war that split the Korean Peninsula. Since then, Beijing has been North Korea’s greatest ally, serving as patron and protector to Pyongyang — a closeness Mao Zedong once likened to “lips and teeth.”

But the bonds of authoritarian brotherhood have frayed of late. Beijing is rather tired of the North’s nuclear theatrics and increasing unwillingness to prop up its sluggish economy. The North’s bold young dictator, Kim Jong Un, has yet to meet with Beijing’s top brass. As news of Xi’s Seoul trip broke, he was busy lobbing rockets into the sea.

Shared frustration with the North has given democratic South Korea and authoritarian China some common ground. They have since discovered they share much else, including a thriving trading partnership and an old foe: Japan. Amid ongoing territorial disputes, the legacy of Japan’s 20th century imperial expansion and the country’s wartime record have become a focal point for East Asia, particularly Seoul and Beijing. They recently collaborated on a museum that pays tribute to Korean man who, in 1909, assassinated a Japanese colonial official.

Not wanting to be outmaneuvered, Tokyo has made a quiet overture to Pyongyang. Sitting within range of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, and an ally of the U.S., Japan is hardly a North Korea fan. But, on July 3 as Xi flew to Seoul, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that he would lift some economic sanctions on North Korea in return for its pledge to investigate the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Japanese and North Korean diplomats have already met in Beijing.

TIME North Korea

Japan To Lift Some Sanctions On North Korea

North Korea Agrees To Reopen 'Full-Scale' Investigation Into Abduction Issue
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces North Korea has agreed to reinvestigate its abduction of Japanese nationals at his official residence on May 29, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. The Asahi Shimbun

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the decision Thursday but provided no immediate details.

(TOKYO) — Japan says it will lift some of the sanctions it has imposed on North Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the decision Thursday but provided no immediate details.

The lifting of the sanctions is in return for North Korea’s promise to reinvestigate the fate of Japanese who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

Even a partial thaw could provide Pyongyang with a small but potentially meaningful boost to its recent efforts at promoting international tourism and, perhaps farther down the road, increased trade.

TIME North Korea

N. Korea Preparing to Indict 2 American Tourists

American tourist Jeffrey Edward Fowle, from West Carrollton, Ohio in Sept. 2010.
American tourist Jeffrey Edward Fowle, from West Carrollton, Ohio in Sept. 2010. William G. Schmidt—AP

(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea said Monday it is preparing to indict two American detainees for carrying out what it says were hostile acts against the country.

Investigations into American tourists Miller Matthew Todd and Jeffrey Edward Fowle concluded that suspicions about their hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their testimonies, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a short report.

KCNA said North Korea is making preparations to bring them before a court.

Both Americans were arrested earlier this year after entering the country as tourists.

Fowle entered the county on April 29 and North Korea’s state media said in June that authorities were investigating him for committing acts inconsistent with the purpose of a tourist visit. A spokesman for Fowle’s family said the 56-year-old man from Ohio was not on a mission for his church.

KCNA said Miller, 24, entered the country April 10 with a tourist visa, but tore it up and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum.

North Korea has also been separately holding Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae since November 2012. He is serving 15 years of hard labor for what the North says were hostile acts against the state.

The United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, so Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, oversees consular issues for the U.S. there. Unless a detainee signs a privacy waiver, the State Department cannot give details about the case.

The Korean Peninsula is still in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from the North.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser